The MeatStick's Grilling Glossary for Beginners

Imagine this: You're grilling at your first BBQ party, and someone asks you for a spatchcocked Chicken Asado and wonders if your steaks have browned from the Maillard reaction.

If you understood them, then good for you! You're on your way to becoming a pitmaster.  

However, if you didn't then uh-oh, how embarrassing would that be? Remember: half the job of being the expert griller is mastering the lingo. You have to know your gastriques from your glazes. So here are some of the most common barbeque and cooking terms in a helpful A to Z glossary. 

A

Asado

Means roast or roasted; refers to both the South American barbeque technique and the social gathering. 

Au jus

A French term meaning "with juice"; refers to the meat juice or light broth derived from roasting meat.

B

Baking

The cooking method of exposing food to dry heat, usually flames, in an oven.

Banking the coals

Preserving the heat of hot coals by piling ash onto them.

Barbacoa

BBQ method originating from the Caribbean.

Barbecue

The cooking method that uses live fire and smoke to cook the food. There are significant national and regional differences; See Carolina BBQ, Kansas City BBQ, and Texas BBQ.

Barbecue fork

Two-pronged barbeque tool that is used to lift food off the grill.

Barbecue sauce

A ubiquitous condiment used in barbeque cooking as a baste, marinade and even topping.

Bark

The crispy layer of seasonings and flavor that build on the exterior of your slow-smoked bbq.

Baste

The act of painting the meat over with its own juices or a sauce.

Basting brush

Brush tool used in basting; See baste.

Blanching

Momentarily scalding food in boiling water or steam until cooked, and immediately followed by a quick dunk in ice water. Usually used for vegetables.

Boiling

Increasing the temperature of a liquid to the point of surface evaporation.

Braai

Refers to the South African barbeque technique and the social gathering.

Braising

The cooking method of slowly simmering food in a tightly sealed vessel; different from stewing as it uses less liquid and is usually used for larger cuts of meat.

Brine

Process of submerging food in strong flavourful liquid or dry mixes to draw out moisture and inject flavor. For variations; see dry brine and wet brine.

Briquettes

Compressed blocks of coal dust or other combustible material (such as charcoal, sawdust, wood chips, peat, or paper) used for fuel as well as for kindling to start a fire.

Brisket flat

The leaner side of brisket.

Brisket point

The fatter side of brisket.

Bullet

U.S. premium barbeque grill brand.

Burnt ends

Flavorful pieces of meat cut from the "point" half of a smoked brisket. See pointfor more clarification on parts of brisket.

C

Candy thermometer

A tool for measuring temperature. Usually has a higher range than meat thermometers and can be used in high heat process of candy making as well as oil testing for deep frying.

Capsaicin

A chemical compound found in chilies and peppers that contribute to spiciness.

Caramelization

The process of browning sugar in foods resulting in sweet flavour and brown color.

Carolina BBQ

The regional style of BBQ originating from the midwest; has a distinctive tangier and more sour flavor compared to other regional BBQs.

Carving board

A board to slice meat on, typically has a drain running along the sides for meat juices.

Cast iron cookware

Heavy-duty cookware made of cast iron that retains heat fabulously and is non-stick; heavier than regular cookware and requires maintenance via the process of seasoning.

Char-broil

Cooking process of broiling with direct heat over charcoal; Also the name of a famous grill manufacturer.

Charcoal

A manufactured product created from wood; used as fuel for barbecue and smoker.

Charcuterie

A dish consisting of a variety of cold-cut meats, cheeses, nuts, and other snacks.

Chimney starter

A short metal tube with a handle at the side; this handy tool helps to start fires and keep the briquettes burning.

Chine

To semi-detach the backbone from the ribs, thus making the joint easier to carve.

Chinese barbecue

aka Char siu (or cha shao in Mandarin Chinese). This barbeque pork's main spice rub is five-spice powder, uses honey and sweetener as a glaze, and is red in color.

Chuck

Chuck primal cut is located at the front chest and top of a cow including shoulder and neck parts.

Churrasco

The Portuguese and Spanish name for beef or grilled meat. It is a prominent feature in the cuisine of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Clarified butter

aka Ghee; Butter with water and milk solids removed. Clarified butter lasts longer in the refrigerator and has a higher smoke point for cooking.

Cold smoking

The smoking method done at temperatures no higher than 100°F, and more often between 65 and 85°F. See smoking.

Collagen

A form of meat protein. The more collagen there is in a piece of meat, the tougher it is to cut and to chew.

Conduction

One of the three types of heat transfer methods; conduction is when heat travels through direct contact.

Connective tissue

Meat tissue that supports, protects, and gives structure to other tissues and organs in the body. The presence of this type of tissue influences meat tenderness.

Convection

One of the three types of heat transfer methods; convection is when heat travels through a medium such as water or air.

Cooking chamber

The enclosed area in a barbeque grill where the food is cooked.

Cracklings

Fried pork rinds.

Cures and curing

To treat food, etc. with smoke, salt, etc. in order to preserve it. An example would be cured ham.

D

Dark meat

Meat that contains more myoglobin  pigment. It is more flavorful and juicier than white meat.

Deep frying

The cooking method that involves submerging food in boiling oil.

Direct heat cooking

Cooking food directly over the heat source, usually a hot fire, throughout the entire cooking process.

Dry Brine

Brining without liquid, usually with flavored salt mixes. See Brine.

E

Emulsion

An even blend of liquids that are not usually not soluble or miscible, for example, egg yolk and vinegar in mayonnaise.

F

Fat Cap

A layer of hard white fat that sits on top of the meat.

Firebricks

Bricks capable of withstanding intense heat, used especially to line furnaces and fireplaces.

Flash point

The flash point is the lowest temperature at which the vapors keep burning after the ignition source is removed. Exposing air to steam when opening the grill could potentially cause dangerous flames at the flash point.

Fond

The burnt bits of seasoning and flavor at the bottom of the pan that can be used in making pan sauce.

Freeze drying

A low-temperature dehydration process that involves freezing the product, lowering pressure, then removing the ice by sublimation.

Frying

Cooking method using hot oil or fat.

Fuel

Material such as coal, gas, or oil that is burned to produce heat or power. In grilling, fuel usually refers to briquettes.

G

Gastrique

Caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar or other sour liquids, used as a sweet and sour flavoring for sauces.

Glaze

A glossy, translucent coating applied to the outer surface of a dish by dipping, dripping, or using a brush. For example, barbeque sauce is often used as a glaze on pork shoulder.

Grain-finished beef

Comes from cows that were fed grain in the latter part of their lives; a fatter alternative to grass-fed beef.

Grass-fed beef

Comes from cows that were fed grass throughout their entire lives; this type of beef contains less fat and more nutrients than grain-finished beef.

Gridiron

A grate for broiling food.

Griddle

A heavy, flat iron plate that is heated and used for cooking food.

Grill

A form of cooking that involves dry heat applied to the surface of food, and usually involves a significant amount of direct, radiant heat.

Grill topper

A perforated metal surface that can sit on a grill and prevent small pieces of food from falling through the grates; can be used as a substitute for a griddle.

Gristle

Tough inedible parts of connective tissue in meat.

H

Holy trinity

In Cajun cooking, this refers to the combination of onions, bell peppers and celery often used as a flavor base.

Hot and fast

Alternative to low and slow cooking, hot and fast cooking requires high heat and a relatively shorter cook time. It produces a chewier texter compared to the fall-apart tenderness of low and slow cooking.

Hot smoking

In hot smoking, the food is cooked while it is smoked as opposed to in cold smoking.

I

Indirect Grilling

The indirect method means that the heat is placed either on one side or on both sides of the food.

Instant read thermometer

A thermometer that reads temperatures instantly, with either a dial or digital read-out.

K

Kamado

A traditional Japanese wood or charcoal-fired earthen vessel used as a stove or oven; also refers to a brand of ceramic grill.

Kansas City BBQ

Regional style of BBQ originating from the Kansas City; Kansas City barbecue is seasoned with a dry rub, slow-smoked over a variety of woods, and served with a thick tomato-based barbecue sauce.

Kebabs

A meat-on-stick dish originating from Middle Eastern cuisine.

Kindling

Small sticks or twigs used for lighting fires.

Konro

A special type of Japanese grill that resembles drama blocks with a flat grill surface.

Korean barbecue

Barbeque originating from Korea. Often, the gas or charcoal grills are built into the dining table.

L

Lard

A semi-solid white fat product obtained by rendering the fatty tissue of a pig.

Lean or fatty

Descriptions for the amount of fat in the meat. The leaner the meat, the less fat it contains. The fattier the meat, and vice versa.

Live-fire cooking

Refers to cooking over fire; includes direct and indirect grilling, smoking, rotisserie, etc.

Low ‘n’ slow

Alternative to hot and fast cooking, Low ‘n’ slow cooking requires cooking at low heat and a relatively longer cook time. This type of cooking produces fall-apart tenderness, usually seen in briskets.

M

Maillard reaction

A chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. The crust seen on seared steaks is caused by the Maillard reaction.

Marbling

Refers to the pattern of white intramuscular fat in red meat that resembles marble.

Marinade

A savory, usually acidic sauce in which meat, fish, or a vegetable is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Different from brine in its function: Brine is for retaining moisture in meats while marinade is mostly for flavor.

Meat thermometer

A thermometer used to measure the internal temperature of meat.

Memphis BBQ

Regional style of BBQ originating from the Memphis; this style of BBQ centered mostly on pork.

Mise en place

French culinary phrase which means "putting in place" or "gather"; refers to the preparation and set up of ingredients before cooking.

Mop Sauce

Refers to a thin, watery solution that is brushed onto meat used to prevent it from drying out over the grill. 

MSG

aka monosodium glutamate; this is a flavor enhancer popularly found in Chinese cooking. There is no scientific proof that MSG consumption is dangerous. 

Myoglobin

Red muscle pigment on meat that gives red meat its color; often confused for blood.

N

Non-reactive cookware

Cookware that does not chemically react with food (although in some instances chemical reactions are preferred in cooking). Usually more expensive than reactive cookware.

O

Offset fireboxes

A barbecue smoker with a horizontal cooking chamber and a firebox on the side, designed to cook with indirect heat for "low and slow" barbecue.

P

Pan-frying

Pan frying means cooking food in a hot pan with the bottom lightly coated with oil.

Pan roasting

A two-part cooking process that starts with food in the pan and finishes with the pan in the oven.

Pan sauce

A simple pan sauce gets its flavor from deglazing the pan with your liquid(s) once the meat has been removed.

Parboiling

Partially boiling food in the first step of cooking.

Pasteurization

A process in which packaged and non-packaged foods are treated with mild heat, usually to less than 212°F (100 °C), to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life.

Pellet smokers

Outdoor grills that use food-grade wood that has been compressed into a pellet as the fuel source.

Pitmaster

A professional or skilled barbecuer.

Pressure cooking

The process of cooking food under high-pressure steam in a sealed vessel known as a pressure cooker.

Primal Cut

A butcher term that describes the piece of meat that was the first to be separated from the carcass of an animal.

R

Rack

The rack is the unsplit primal rib (sometimes called the hotel rack) of the carcass which includes ribs 6 through 12.

Radiation

One of the three types of heat transfer methods; radiation is when heat is transferred through waves.

Render

To melt and clarify hard animal fat for cooking purposes.

Resting

The process after grilling meat where the meat is untouched to allow juices to reabsorb in the fibers.

Reverse sear

A method that is characterized by cooking your steak ¾ of the way through in a preheated oven at 275°F (135ºC), then finishing the cook by searing on a grill or cast-iron skillet.

Roasting

A cooking method that uses dry heat where hot air covers the food, cooking it evenly on all sides with temperatures of at least 150 °C from an open flame, oven, or other heat sources.

Rotisserie

A cooking appliance with a rotating spit for roasting and barbecuing meat.

Roux

A cooked mixture of flour and fat that is used to thicken sauces.

Rub

A mix of seasoning and flavoring ingredients that are combined and applied to the outside of meat or poultry before cooking. For a liquid variation, see wet rub.

S

Satay

Grilled meat on skewers; from Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine.

Sauces

The liquid that is served alongside other main foods.

Sautéing

A method of cooking that uses direct heat from a pan, typically by only using a relatively small amount of oil or fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat.

Searing

A cooking technique in which the surface of the food is cooked at high temperature until a browned crust forms.

Seasoning

Maintaining a grill or cast iron by applying oils and high heat.

Seasoning a smoker

Preparing a grill for use by applying oil to the grill and heating it at a high temperature for long hours.

Simmering

Cooking at a temperature that is slightly below boiling.

Skewers

A long piece of wood or metal used for holding pieces of food, typically meat, together during cooking.

Slider

A small burger.

Smoke

The process of flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood.

Smoke point

The temperature at which oil and fats begin to smoke and break down into fatty acids.

Smoker

A device used for smoking.

Smoker box

A smoker box holds the wood chips that are to be placed over a charcoal or gas fire for the smoked flavor.

Sous vide

The process of cooking that uses vacuum bags and thermal immersion circulator machines; foods typically require searing or grilling afterwards to generate appealing texture and colors on the exterior.

Spatchcock

Split open (a poultry or game bird) ready for grilling.

Spritzing

Spraying moisture onto the surface of the meat with a spray bottle to keep everything moist during the grilling process.

Sterilization

Process of removing or killing bacteria.

Stewing

A combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy.

Stir-frying

Chinese cooking technique that involves cooking food over high heat in a wok.

Suet

Suet is a cooking ingredient and type of animal fat that collects around the kidneys of cows, sheep, and mutton.

T

Tallow

A semi-solid white fat product obtained by rendering the fatty tissue of a cattle or sheep.

Texas BBQ

Regional style of BBQ originating from texas; famous for its briskets.

Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is a triangular cut of beef cut from the bottom of the sirloin; named after its triangular shape with a tapered “tip”

U

Umami

A flavour profile characterized by its distinct savoriness of broth and cooked meats.

W

Water smokers

A smoker with a water pan that allows you to smoke meat at temperatures well below 300°F for many hours.

Wet brine

A liquid brine.

Wet rub

A mix between marinade and dry rub.

Wet-aged beef

Wet-aged beef is stored in vacuum bags and refrigerated. As opposed to dry-aging, this process retains moisture better and provides a fresher taste.

Wet-cured ham

Ham that has been cured by soaking or injecting with water and brining ingredients.

White meat

Meat with more protein compared to dark meat, for example, chicken breast.

Wood chunks/chips

Small pieces of wood used as fire fuel; wood chunks are typically larger than wood chips.

Worcestershire sauce

A fermented liquid condiment with a strong umami flavor.

Y

Yakiniku

Japanese-style BBQ meat.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.